By Njoki Maina

The Institute of Women, Gender and Development Studies (IWGD) at Egerton University has launched two programmes aimed at building the capacity of women and youth in leadership.

The Youth & Women Transformational Leadership Development programmes were launched last Saturday during the gender awareness day held at the university’s Njoro campus.

The mission of the programme is to identify, nurture and empower women, youth and persons living with disability with transformative leadership skills by preparing them to participate actively as agents of change in order to strive for equitable, just and inclusive sustainable development in Africa and beyond.

During the launch Dr. Damaris Parsitau who is the Director at the Institute stressed on the need to invest in women and girls.

“As a woman I know that girls and women are at the heart of sustainable development and its time we helped them to do more.”

“Yet many times women and girls are treated as second class citizens (and are) still held back by harmful cultural traditions,” she lamented.

She also observed that the future of Kenya depends on a strong youth arguing that they are the change makers in our every progressive society.

“Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts itself from its youth severs its lifeline: it is condemned to bleed to death,”

she said while quoting the former UN Secretary Kofi Annan.

Despite there being a progressive Constitution women and youth are underrepresented in leadership in Kenya. For instance very few youth were elected into elective positions in the last general election. In the case of women representation, only 19 percent of them make up the national parliament, yet this is the best that Kenya has ever had since independence. And although the constitution created the post of female parliamentarians, which is exclusive to women, their influence through this post is yet to be felt at the grass root.

The two programmes aim to address the above issues by raising the capacity of women and youth in business and entrepreneurship, peace building, agribusiness and food security as well.

Its objectives are: to develop the capacities of aspiring and existing leaders, in areas of public life, especially at the grass root and devolved system of governance.

Dr. Parsitau also pushed for the education of the girl child.

“Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximize their potential, their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy,” she said.

Among the guests who graced the occasion was Dr. Josephine Kulea a Samburu community leader who has been feted for rescuing young girls who get married off by their parents at their parents. Kulea was among those who were recognized by the President of the United States Barrack Obama during his last visit in July.

While talking about the need to include women in leadership Obama had said it was important to treat women as equals.

“Evidence shows that communities that give their daughters the same opportunities as their sons are peaceful, prosperous, develop faster and are more likely to succeed,” said Dr. Parsitau.

“Young people are part of the solution to the difficulties they face. The training is well thought out with the inputs of young people,” she added.